Their heads are down, their eyes averted. As the locker room fills with reporters after every game, they know the questions are coming, and they don’t have the answers.
In the wake of their biggest loss of the season — a 102-72 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on Saturday — Wizards coach Randy Wittman and his players are at a loss to answer a fundamental question: Why can’t they shoot?
The Wizards (3-18) have the worst record and the worst scoring average (89.8 points) in the NBA.
They’ve been plagued by injuries to key players, most notably point guard John Wall, who has yet to play this season because of a stress injury to his left knee. But even the loss of their floor leader shouldn’t cause this level of offensive ineptitude.
Wall has been cleared to “ramp up his activity level” according to a statement by Dr. David Altchek, who examined Wall on Friday. Wittman was quick to point out, however, that Wall is not cleared for contact activity or practice.
As Wittman waits for positive news on when he can have his point guard back, he becomes visibly annoyed at the suggestion that Wall may miss the season. Still, Wall can’t be the only reason the team is struggling this badly.
“I don’t know what we were doing from an offensive standpoint,” Wittman said after the loss to Miami. “We didn’t have any direction on the floor. I mean, I didn’t know what we were running on the floor half the night.”
In addition to Wall’s absence, the team also is missing A.J. Price, Wall’s backup, who is out with a fractured hand.
Shaun Livingston would seem to be a natural choice as the next backup, but Livingston has been struggling since injuring his shoulder in the team’s loss to Charlotte on Nov. 24.
Instead, Wittman has called on Jordan Crawford to run the team. Crawford can play point guard and is an adequate replacement, but his natural position is two-guard, so he has the dual function of also being the team’s primary scoring option.
Crawford denies he feels extra pressure, but there’s a lot on his plate.
“We didn’t take care of business,” Crawford said after Saturday’s loss. “They was the aggressor. They did a good job of taking us out of our offense.” Unfortunately for the Wizards, that isn’t very hard to do.
To overcome their poor execution, or compensate for shots that don’t fall, the Wizards’ best chance to steal a few wins might be to step up defensive pressure. Washington allows 97.5 points a game, 15th in the league.
“We were all over the place, honestly,” said rookie guard Bradley Beal, whose 19 points against the Heat were a team high. “I don’t know. I guess our heads were just spinning.”
“I think we got kind of discouraged because we weren’t making shots. I think that affected our play on both ends of the floor and that led us away from what we wanted to do.”
What the Wizards want to do sounds simple enough — win. How they’ll pull it off remains the unanswerable question.
“I know when I break this down I’m not going to recognize anything we were doing out there,” Wittman said shaking his head, referring to game film from Miami. “That can’t be.”